Caste barrier for trained priests

Supreme court stay order has left 207 certified archaka fate in lurch
Chennai: Even as two Dalit widows created history by becoming priests in Sri Gokarnanatha Kshetra in Mangalore, the future of about 200 students who underwent archaka (priest) training course offered by the government in 2007-08, hangs in the balance with a case pending in the SC challenging the order removing caste barrier in appointment of temple priests in the state.
The then DMK government issued a G.O. in May 2006 declaring that suitably trained and qualified Hindus, without “discrimination of caste, creed, custom or usage”, were to be appointed as archakas to any of the 36,000 temples administered by the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments board.
However, the government move was challenged by the Adi Saiva Sivacharyargal Nala Sangam, the Thennindia Thirukkoil Archagargal Paripalana Sabhai and others, in the Supreme Court. The SC stay has left the 207 persons who had completed the one-year junior archakas certificate course offered by HR&CE department, in the lurch.
T. Marichamy, who underwent the training at Madurai Meenakshi Amman temple, said, three Brahmins who underwent training along with us are working in a HR&CE run temple.
V. Ranganathan, state president of Archakar Payirchi Pettra Mannavargal Sangam, who had impleaded in the SC case, said even though the apex court stay denied them jobs in government-run temples, many of the trained priests were working in private temples while some were doing other jobs.
He demanded that the government at least provide monthly aid of '5,000 until their appointment.The case has been pending for over eight years as the state has been seeking adjournments, said advocate S. Raju, state coordinator of Human Rights Protection Centre. He said all caste people can become temple priests in Karnataka and Kerala but TN government-run temples remain out of bounds for non-Brahmins.
When contacted, tourism, culture and religious endowments department additional chief secretary, Dr R. Kannan, said he cannot comment since the matter is sub judice.
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